Muslims Assault Non-Muslim in Immigration Detention Centres

20 May 2002

A deeply disturbing scandal has emerged in Australia's immigration
detention centres where Christians and other non-Muslim
asylum-seekers have been "stoned, assaulted, sexually harassed and
abused by Islamic fanatics".

Reza, an Iranian Christian, was blinded in one eye last August
when a group of Afghan Muslim men stoned Christians leaving the
dining hall in Woomera detention centre.  In another incident a
Christian man was kicked to the floor and his cross was ripped
from his neck.  In December 2001 an eighteen-year-old Mandean girl
(a small religious group which follows the teachings of John the
Baptist) was shouted at by Muslim men in a dining hall who called
her a "dirty, filthy infidel" who shouldn't be allowed to serve
food to Muslims.  When she attempted to argue back she was "pushed
to the ground and kicked and abused."  In a similarly shocking
incident a blind Mandean man was seized by Muslim men, held down
and defecated on before being left in a locked toilet.  In other
incidents non-Muslim girls have faced sexual harassment and verbal
abuse because they do not wear Islamic veils, the doorways
of Mandean asylum seekers have been defecated in, and a local
Islamic mullah has even called for a jihad (holy war) against
Mandeans at the Port Hedland detention centre.

Non-Muslim men, women, and even children, many of whom fled
Muslim-majority countries like Iran in the first place because
they were being persecuted for their faith, are now facing
abuse of a horrific nature from Muslim conservatives
in Australia's detention centres.  The majority of asylum seekers
in Australia are Muslims.  Witnesses say that extremist Shiah
Muslims, particularly Iranians, Afghans and Iraqis, are often
those behind the violence.  The BBC quotes Dr Graham Thom, Amnesty
International's Refugee Co-ordinator, as saying "The reports
we're hearing say that Mandeans, Tamils and other Hindus,
Christians - in particular Christian converts - are facing
violence or threats of violence from certain Islamists within the
detention centres.  They are being called infidels.  They are
being refused access to kitchens and things like that because
people think they are unclean as infidels.  This has escalated at
times when there is a serious breakdown of order within the
detention centre when there are riots and things like that and
these groups, who often refuse to participate in riots, are
physically assaulted."

Chaplains, pastoral workers and staff at the Woomera, Curtin and
Port Hedland detention centres in Australia have spoken up about
an atmosphere of Islamic intimidation and terror in which the
authorities seem powerless to protect the non-Muslims.  Whilst
Muslim asylum-seekers have access to halal meat and mosques,
many non-Muslims' religious and dietary needs are not being met.
In Woomera Mandeans are now even allegedly forced to hold their
religious meetings in secret, and in Curtin no Mandean services
are being held at all because the authorities simply cannot
guarantee the protection of the participants, and even Christian
services, including baptisms, have been severely restricted.
The widespread suffering and "constant discrimination" is
leading to deep emotional distress and psychological trauma.
Jim Monaghan, a Christian chaplain at Woomera, says that "at
present the families there are very vulnerable.  There have been
attempted suicides and other forms of self-harm ... they are

These shocking reports, which have been publicised by
Australia's The Age newspaper, the BBC, and Amnesty
International, have raised a new factor in the debate
surrounding Australia's immigration policy, which is often
criticised as being harsh.

The reports also raise disturbing questions about the state of
asylum centres in Europe, America and other countries in the
developed world.  Could Christians and other non-Muslim
asylum-seekers be suffering similar discrimination in other
contexts where Muslims also make up the majority of

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